Amateurs Enlisted to Solve Astronomy Mystery

By Jane Yager,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 25, 2009 8:29 AM CDT
A boy looks into a telescope as a girl tries out solar view goggles at the Science City in Ahmadabad, India, Tuesday, July 21, 2009.    (AP Photo/Ajit Solanki)
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(Newser) – Scientists are calling on amateur astronomers to help solve the centuries-old puzzle of a super-bright star that goes dim every 27 years. Epsilon Aurigae will fade out from this fall to spring 2011; this time around, scientists are looking to ordinary sky-watchers to provide extra data on the mysterious companion believed to be blocking the star's light, Wired reports.

The star is so bright that an amateur telescope, or even the naked eye, can provide useful data even in light-polluted urban areas, making it a good opportunity for citizen science. In a collaborative project called Citizen Sky, amateurs will be trained to not only collect data,but also analyze it, come up with hypotheses, and write up their own results.